Learning Communities: UWMand BeyondRetention Steering CommitteeNovember 6, 2014
First-Year Seminars: National OverviewWhat is a First-Year Seminar?A course designed to “assist students in their academic and social development and in theirtransition to college. A seminar, by definition, is a small discussion-based course in whichstudents and their instructors exchange ideas and information. In most cases, there is a strongemphasis on creating community in the classroom.” (Hunter & Linder, 2005, pp. 275-276).First-Year Seminars as a High Impact Practice“Many schools now build into the curriculum first-year seminars or other programs that bringsmall groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis. The highest-qualityfirst-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, informationliteracy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practicalcompetencies. First-year seminars can also involve students with cutting-edge questions inscholarship and with faculty members’ own research.” (https://www.aacu.org/leap/hips)Learning Communities as a High Impact Practice“The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across coursesand to involve students with ‘big questions’ that matter beyond the classroom. Students taketwo or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with theirprofessors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readingsthrough the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link ‘liberal arts’ and ‘professionalcourses’; others feature service learning.” (https://www.aacu.org/leap/hips)
Learning Communities at UWMObjectiveIt is the goal of the Learning Communities (LC) to develop a learning environmentthat combines effective instructional methods, co-curricular learning and events andHigh Impact Practices to lead to academic success and stronger connections tocampus for first semester students.Definition of a UWM Learning Community Enroll only first-time, first-year students. Employ high impact practices, including a team approach with mentors,instructors and possibly advisors connecting with the course and studentcommunity. Establish and assess common curricular and co-curricular learning outcomes. Create an academic environment that fosters a successful transition into collegelife. Each LC is supported by both a faculty instructor and a Peer Mentor, whoregularly attends the class to promote campus resources, events, andinvolvement.
Learning Communities at UWMMarketingOnce a course has been deemed a LC, it will be marketed to incoming first yearstudents at New Student Orientation with the recommendation that all students enroll in at least oneLC. Due to the rich diversity of the UWM students, it is the goal to offer a variety of LC options.Types of LCs: First Year Seminars- They are smaller in size and broader in scope and intended to enhancestudent skills (inquiry and analysis, critical and creative thinking, oral and written communication)and engage you in reflection about the process of learning at the college level. Intro to Profession- A course all students in a specific major or school/college are required to taketheir first semester. It may introduce student to the discipline as well as the school/collegeexpectations. First Year Impact Section- A first year only section or lab that is part of a larger lecture class. Paired Course- Two different courses with the same students and shared content. Other- Current examples include Study Skills, Career Exploration, Financial Literacy, andInformation Literacy. Living Learning Communities- Students take one or more courses together and live in a residencehall together. A separate process occurs for LLCs. For more information, see www.llc.uwm.edu.
Fall 2014 ParticipationLearning Communities Fall 2014TotalMentors Assigned to LCs39# of LC Classes Being Supported74# of Unassigned LC Classes1First-Year Seminar (FYS)25First-Year Impact Section (FYIS)16Intro to the Profession (IP)1Living-Learning Community (LLC)16Living-Learning Community (LLC)/First-Year Seminars (FYS)1Living-Learning Community (LLC)/First-Year Impact Sections (FYIS)0Transition Course (EP)15First-Year Seminar (FYS)/Intro to the Profession (IP)0Cancelled LCs14New Courses in the Learning Community (LC) Program4Total # of Individual Students in LCs1717
Strengths of Current LC Model Diverse array of courses for a diverse studentpopulation Positive impacts on retention and academic success Little financial resources utilized Connections with faculty, staff and peers Peer mentoring aspect Faculty/Instructor buy-In Smaller class sizes* Discussion-based courses* Address both curricular & co-curricular outcomes* Others?
Challenges of Current LC Model Lack of consistency in student experience (class size,learning outcomes, faculty buy-in) “Low-hanging fruit” has been picked Lack of centralized faculty leadership of LC movement Lack of centralized coordination/ample resources Student interest in enrollment Tension between academic and transition areas of courses Challenging to foster out of class community in LCs Students are allowed to enroll in more than one LC No clustered or paired courses currently offered Not serving the students most in need of the experience Appropriate utilization of mentors in LCs Others?
IUPUI “Themed Learning Communities (TLCs) engage students, faculty, librarians,advisors, and others in a community of learners that explore interdisciplinaryconnections, both in and out of the classroom, which foster enriching learningexperiences.” (http://tlc.iupui.edu) Students entering IUPUI with less than 17 credits are required to enroll in anFYS (TLC) Each FYS is led by an instructional team: faculty member, advisor, studentmentor and librarian TLC participants are encouraged to learn outside the classroom, and haveattended cultural and athletic events Students involved in IUPUI TLCs have reported higher GPAs and are morelikely to be retained
Illinois State University First Year Learning in Communities (LinC) program isan 8-week, 1 credit course– Courses provide: individualized instruction (faculty & peerinstruction), help for students to become civicallyengaged, as well as development of test taking, criticalthinking and time management skills.– Goals: Assisting students in their transition to college;Helping students identify majors and careers; Introducingstudents to opportunities for campus and communityinvolvement Success 101: Success course and weekly successcoaching 21 Theme Houses: (Faculty Mentors, no courses)
Georgia State UniversityWhat are Freshman Learning Communities? 25 students enrolled together in the same courses for fall semesterCourses centered around a field of interestIntroduction to the university and its resources4-5 core curriculum courses that fulfill degree requirementsOverview of success strategies and necessary academic skillsWhy should you be excited to join an FLC? Smooth transition from high school to university life and culture Immediate connection to other students, faculty, campus and Atlantacommunities Higher success rates in GPA, retention and time it takes to graduate Wide variety of schedules to choose fromhttp://www.gsu.edu/success/FLCs.html
Obstacles to achieving 100% Goal Budget model School/college Buy-In/Value placed on teaching firstyear students Number of offerings Lack of centralized resources/faculty leadership Need more time to market to students (NSO too late) Space issues with courses in the Residence Halls Technology to assure that students register for onlyone? Others?
Strategies for Achieving 100% Strategy 1: Residence halls could house allfirst-year students in LearningCommunities/Theme Houses.– Pros: Most impactful practice. Addresses 75% ofthe population.– Cons: Does not address commuter students.Resources/administrative needs in Residence Life.Finding enough courses to meet student interest.
Strategies for Achieving 100% Strategy 2: Getting students interested in LCsin high school, so they see this as a reason whythey are coming to UWM, rather thansomething they have to do at UWM.– Pros: Assists with recruitment of students.– Cons: Human resources to do outreach to highschools. Possible inefficient workload.
Strategies for Achieving 100% Strategy 3: Academic advisors as front-linepromoters of Learning Communities and asadministrative partners.– Pros: Shared responsibility between academicand student affairs. Allows academic advisors tosit at the table with instructional faculty andothers to design and support student learning anddevelopment experiences in LCs.– Cons: School/college buy-in. Budget model.Decentralized- lack of consistency.
Strategies for Achieving 100% Strategy 4: Create a new centralized coursethat all first-year students complete.– Pros: Consistency in student experience. SmallClass sizes. Consistency in messaging. Can movesome information from NSO & Fall Welcome.– Cons: Resource intensive. Faculty governancenavigation. School/college buy-in.
Strategies for Achieving 100% Strategy 5: Require schools/colleges to provideenough LCs for their first-year students.– Pros: Allows for school/college freedom incontent. Faculty buy-in– Cons: Consistency in student experience. Possiblenegative outcomes of it being a “mandate”.Requires high top-level buy-in.
Strategies for Achieving 100% Other Strategies?
References Georgia State University Freshman Learning Communitieshttp://www.gsu.edu/success/FLCs.html Illinois State University First Year / Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Themed LearningCommunities http://tlc.iupui.edu/ Padgett, R.D. & Keup, J.R. (2011). 2009 National Survey of First-YearSeminars: Ongoing Efforts to Support Students in Transition. Columbia,SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for TheFirst-Year Experience and Students in Transition. University of Baltimore Learning duate/learningcommunities/
Learning Communities at UWM Marketing Once a course has been deemed a LC, it will be marketed to incoming first year students at New Student Orientation with the recommendation that all students enroll in at least one LC. Due to the rich diversity of the UWM s